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N.S. Progressive Conservatives project Year 1 election promises at $553 million

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The COVID-19 pandemic will play a factor in the upcoming election, as the province is still in a state of emergency. But when it comes to the issues, they are varied and diverse. And while some are geared up and ready to cast their ballot, others seem to need some more time to put things into perspective. Jesse Thomas has more. – Jul 19, 2021

Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservatives released their election platform Thursday, projecting $553 million in new spending during their first year in office to fulfil campaign promises, mostly for the health-care sector.

The new spending would increase this year’s estimated provincial deficit of $584 million but the bulk of the added cost would appear in the 2022-23 budget, Leader Tim Houston told reporters during a campaign stop.

Read more: Keeping track of the N.S. election and promises from main party leaders

The chartered accountant added that his party would run deficits the following five years to pay for improving the health system.

“No one cuts their way out of an economic downturn,” Houston said. “A failure to make the right investments could severely damage our health-care system and our economy.”

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The party’s 130-page costed platform budgets $430 million in new spending for the health-care sector, including a pension plan for doctors, the extension of operating room hours on weekdays and 2,500 more long-term care beds.

Another $140 million would be spent his first year on a program allowing companies to pay lower taxes if they put the money toward workers’ salaries, the Tory leader said.

The Progressive Conservatives say the cost of their promises will be partially offset by two new taxes on out-of-province property owners – a deed-transfer tax and an absentee-owners tax – which they say will bring in close to $149 million annually.

The leader said he is firmly committed to the promises, adding that political leaders who do not provide fully costed platforms erode the public’s trust in the political system. Houston cited the Liberals’ promise in the last campaign to ensure a family doctor for every Nova Scotian. Instead, he said, there are tens of thousands of citizens searching for a doctor.

“Nova Scotians are right to be cynical – I don’t blame them; I’m sick of it too,” Houston said. “This platform we’re talking about today is my word.”

The NDP has been critical of the Tory pledge to allow companies to pay lower corporate taxes in return for increasing wages, having said it amounts to a tax cut for big business.

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But Houston says the NDP’s criticism is a false portrayal of the program because the companies would not be saving any money; rather, he says, companies would be redirecting some of the tax dollars directly to employees.

The Tories’ pension plan for doctors would exempt contributions from new doctors during the first five years they practice. Doctors with five to 15 years’ experience would contribute $10,000 annually – which would be matched by the province – and those who have worked 15 years or more would contribute $15,000. The pension plan would cost the province about $6 million a year.

Houston’s party says higher salaries for doctors to aid recruitment and retention will cost about $56 million.

The Tories are also promising about $52 million in new spending on a variety of education programs, including restoring school boards that the Liberals abolished.

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Houston’s platform includes fertilization funding for couples struggling to conceive, a $500 tax credit for kids in sports, and a buy local program. The platform also increases the budgets for roads, including rural, gravel roads, by $44 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2021.

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